Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 433–448 | Cite as

Activity trackers, prior motivation, and perceived informational and motivational affordances

  • Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi
  • Nicci Gafinowitz
  • Grace ShinEmail author
Original Article


A large number of activity-tracking devices have recently dominated the fitness world. These devices typically track different forms of activities and are argued to encourage more active lifestyles. The devices encourage and incentivize change in behavior through mechanisms including personal goals, gratifying representations, and social features. However, both current research and anecdotal evidence about the real impacts of these devices point to mixed outcomes. Many users enjoy positive experiences, while others are reported to have abandoned these devices without generating lasting value for themselves. Through a qualitative study of 29 users of Fitbit activity-tracking devices, we explore how different types of pre-existing motivation shaped people’s perception and adoption of the device. Building from the affordance perspective, our findings suggest that users’ pre-existing motivations, derived from unique life priorities, personal situations, and personalities, may interact with different aspects of the tool, and result in disparate outcomes. Two primary conclusions of this research are (1) the motivational features of activity-tracking devices may only complement already existing motivations of the users but do not create incentive for more physical activities on their own. (2) The value of informational affordances of activity trackers diminishes over time for most users (except the quantified selfers), and without motivational affordances, informational affordances do not sustain long-term use of the device.


Activity-tracking devices Wearable technologies Persuasive devices Personal informatics Personal motivation Technology affordances 



The authors would like to thank the study participants for generously sharing their thoughts and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi
    • 1
  • Nicci Gafinowitz
    • 1
  • Grace Shin
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Information and Library ScienceUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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